The comparative ease with which Kingfisher picked off Sill yesterday, having made no inroads over the previous ten days of this EDS Atlantic Challenge third leg, was due to a broken forestay on the French entry

Details took a long time to emerge but it EDS Atlantic Challenge Race HQ has now revealed that a satphone call was received from Sill’s skipper Gael Le Cléac’h yesterday morning. During that call, he explained how, at 0700 that morning, the titanium fastener that secures the base of the forestay to the stemhead had parted in light upwind conditions.

Just as Andrea Scarabelli’s crew did on Fila, the helm was immediately out down to prevent breaking the mast, and all sail dropped.

“We were sailing upwind in a moderate wind force. Everything was fine onboard, when suddenly the forestay fitting snapped,” said Le Cléac’h. “The helm immediately bore away, and that’s what saved the mast. Then the whole crew went to work in order to take the solent off the forestay and fix it with bits of Spectra.”

While saving their mast and jury-rigging the forestay, Sill was stationary for four hours, explaining the huge gains Kingfisher and Ecover made on Wednesday night/Thursday morning. Le Cléac’h said Sill was now progressing under full sail with one reef in the main and a solent headsail up.

“It’s fine as that is the configuration we would have anyway, so the only real problem is that obviously Ellen MacArthur has managed to overtake us thanks to this accident.” He did not say whether they mended the mainsail or not, only that the mainsail was no longer a problem.

The apparent setback has not affected the morale of the crew. When Le Cléac’h told race officials he fully intended to regain first place, his crew was heard cheering and agreeing in the background. Some of that optimism might be due to the fact that north and northeasterly winds are expected in the area and that would allow Sill to put the pedal down without straining the jury forestay fitting.

Figures polled at 0751 this morning give Kingfisher a 50-mile lead over Sill with Ecover a further 29 miles astern. Kingfisher is sailing faster, right at the mouth of the Chesapeake, 933 miles from the Baltimore finish.